Foster dog bit neighbor...

by Terri
(Atlanta, GA)

I was asked if I could keep a foster dog for two weeks for a person that fosters dogs while she went on Christmas vacation. After asking about the dog's temperament, etc., and being told the dog was very sweet, I said I would help. They did say the dog came from an abusive situation, but they didn't really know what that entailed.

They met me half way and gave me his food and crate, along with leash and collar he was wearing. I had the dog for 7 days with no incidents. On the 7th day, I asked my significant other if he could walk the dog around the block a couple of times. While he was picking up the dog's poop, the dog pulled and he let go of the retractable leash.

The dog took off with the leash trailing and ran up to a neighbor's carport between the car and the wall of the house. He first tried to talk kindly to the dog. It did growl some, but then he was able to scratch/pat the dog's head. However, when he reached down to push the dog's collar back down that was loose, he slipped slightly and his hand went too fast. The dog then bit him between his thumb and finger.

He had to go to the emergency room and then have hand surgery to repair a severed nerve and tendon problem. He has insurance, his cost will be under $2000.

Should we just pay the cost or should we file a claim for his medical payments? Also if I just ask my insurance these questions, will they cancel my policy or increase my rates? If they pay for his medical only, will I likely lose my homeowners insurance and have rates increased for a "dog bite" claim?

I have given the dog back, but don't expect any financial help from foster person or rescue. Thank you for any perspective you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Foster dog bit neighbor...":

Terri (Atlanta, GA):

It is very unlikely your homeowners insurance rates will rise, or that your insurance company will cancel or fail to renew your policy if you ask them questions about the incident. Unless you actually file a claim, you shouldn't have to worry about about rate increases, a canceled policy, or a failure to renew.

Unfortunately, there is an issue you may not know about. It's called subrogation. Subrogation is an action taken by an insurance company to recover monies they pay out on behalf of an insured.

For example, in your case your neighbor’s insurance company paid the costs of his surgery and related medical costs. That amount was likely quite high, as there was surgery involved. As a result, your neighbor's insurance company has a right to demand reimbursement from you for that amount.

Your neighbor also has a legal right to come to you to reimburse him for the $2,000 deductible he paid.

Because of the possibility of subrogation, you might consider filing a homeowner's claim. Before doing so, read your policy and see how long you have to actually file the claim. While time limits for filing homeowners insurance claims differ from company to company, in most cases claims must be filed within thirty (30) days of the incident.

If you are having trouble finding the filing period, call your insurance agent.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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Addition to dog bite incident above...
by: Terri

I need to clarify my post above. The foster person had the dog for around 2-3 months and the dog actually bit my boyfriend who was the person walking the dog. He does not live with me.

If the rescue has insurance, would or should they help with medical costs? The foster person did not offer to help and was only concerned with getting the dog back and then stopped communicating with me.

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